Tics are Tacky and Won't Bring in the Dough
Writers Tics - we all have them. Some of us know our tics, some of us don't. Before our books are published, we should be checking for these nasty little story-ruiners. If you don't catch them, your readers will. Word of mouth sells a lot of your books.
Once a reader has spotted your tic, it stops them in your stories every time. Have you ever been around someone who overuses a word?
In the TV show, "How I Met Your Mother" there's an episode where a drinking game develops. Every time Robin says, "but um" they have to take a drink. Here's a few seconds of that episode:
What a way to deal with someone who annoys us with a repeat of the same word.
And that is the number one tic: overuse of the same word. In my writings, I tend to put "Oh," "Well," "But," "And," at the beginning of dialogue - or so I thought. Not only do I like these words at the beginning, 'but' I'll throw them helter skelter throughout the story.
Here are some other words to watch for: also, just, very. Rarely does the word "very" have any meaning in a story, so avoid it. "Just" - "he just hung up the phone'" "he just got through" "she just didn't understand" - watch for this in your storyline. "Also" is another word you should "also" watch for. Too many "also's" and your reader will 'just' get tired of reading.
One of the worst culprits is the word 'that'. If you read your story out loud, you'll know if you really need "that" in your sentence. But when should we use it and when do we not have to? I'll admit - I love leaving 'that' out.
Grammar Girl has the answer for us: Grammar Girl (Personally, I use the Grammar Girl site alot and receive the newsletters too. Bottom line is how you, the writer, feel about the flow of your words.
Fragment sentences is another tic. "And he went." Make sure your sentences are complete.
Underuse of contractions. These are modern times. Don't write like your favorite classical author.
Typos, mainly homophones. As writers we get so involved in our stories that it's easy to make such common mistakes, but sometimes we make the same mistake: too/to/two your/you're who's/whose
red/read Readers catch these in a heartbeat. Believe me, I know (no). It is one of my pet peeves when reading. A homophone will cause me to go back to the sentence again and again.
Misspelling the same word. We type as our thoughts come to us, often tripping on the one word that has always caused us problems: absence/excellent/congratulations/ I have one of these tics - occasionally. Every time, I spell it 'occassionally' and then I stare at it, wondering why it doesn't look right. I often have to look this word up because I cannot spell it correctly or figure out what's wrong with it. Seriously. Sad, isn't it? Do I
Overuse of adverbs is another. The -ly words sneak into our stories more than we realize. Our readers are pretty smart people and they don't need us to overtell the story. Along with this is irrelevant details.
"She tapped her foot nervously and lightly on the well-polished floor while she waited impatiently for his overly late return. He opened the door quietly, but she was watching him intently. "Where were you?" she demanded angrily."
"She walked slowly down the stairs, counting each one carefully, taking a breath each time. "One," she said. (breath) "Two," she said. (breath) "Three," she said. (breath)" I'm impatient, so at this point I want to knock the character down the stairs.
Do you see how it slows down the story?
Watch out for your favorite words. Always check for overused words, including your favorites. One of mine is "way" for "method" or "habit." Use your Thesaurus so much, your lover will get jealous of that fun book.
Overuse or underuse of commas. When I'm working on a story, I refuse to stop and try to figure out if a sentence does or doesn't need a comma. The result is, well, a lot of corrections and confusing sentences. Commas are my downfall in writing.
Don't let your favorite sentence structure become your only sentence structure in your entire book. How boring would that be to read?
These are just a few of writer tics. Look at your own writing, whether it be a short blog or a veluminous novel, and see which tics you have. If you can identify them, you can break your habit.
LHR, my friends and remember to PAWS for Success.